Spring Ahead…

If I had known this was a sequel/continuation to her book My Name is Mary Sutter, I would have had it on amazon pre-order. As it was I found it as a display, noting a lovely cover and title: Winter Sisters.

Title: Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira

Publisher: Viking February 2018, 415pp

Genre: literature, historical, mystery, suspense

5 stars highly recommended


Robin Oliveira (BA Russian Literature (1976), registered nurse, former literary agent (MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts 2006)), was awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship for a work-in-progress. My Name is Mary Sutter won the 2011 Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction. Originally from Albany NY, she now lives in Seattle, Washington.


Mary Sutter was an unforgettable character, fiercely passionate as a doctor, intensely loyal to her family and friends, and driven by an independent spirit. Fourteen years have passed and she is still challenging social norms, prejudices and conventions. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Mary is again a central figure, few would have her perseverance and defiance but she shares the story with her niece Elizabeth and mother Amelia. All are needed not just to save the girls physically, but emotionally. They provide a multifaceted, deeply layered view of the era, women’s roles, love and family bonds. They are lucky to have the strong unwavering support of men who understand their sacrifice.

This is a very dark, difficult tale of kidnapping, rape and court proceedings against a 10year old child, which was considered consensual by law at that time (1879). It portrays a society laced with greed, police corruption, social class, bribery and betrayal. It is also a rewarding tale of hope and perseverance. Oliveira knows Albany well and and her detailed research provides rich descriptions of Victorian architecture, commerce, historical detail, even the weather create a powerful backdrop to this complex mystery. The writing is evocative, sensitive and filled with vivid characters. The story is timeless and riveting. I savored the historical detail, was haunted by the conditions of the street women, restricted social climate and horrific rape, found comfort in William and Mary’s relationship and ended determined to continue the fight over 100years later.

This novel can be read as a stand-alone, but don’t miss her other books.

Read on:

Nicola Upson Josephine Tey series, Jacqueline Winspear Maisie Dobbs series


One joy in this somber story is Mary and William’s marriage. “Neither of them could think of a time together when either of them let each other down.” “Theirs was a tenacious love, as solid and true as granite.”

“I will gladly hear what you have to say, Dr. Stipp, but only after I speak to Emma. I do not want to contaminate my impressions with yours.”

“They are not impressions. They are facts.”

“There are facts and then there are alternate facts.”

“That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard anyone say.”

One day, I’m going to write a violin concerto and call it Number One Hundred Thirteen, and Elizabeth will play it” One hundred twelve days since they were taken, that day (113) marked the first day she wasn’t scared when she awoke.


What fools….

Title: Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Publisher: Harper January 2018, 385 pp

Genre: literature, literary fiction, fiction, historical fiction, English mystery

5 stars. Highly recommended

Author: Bernard Cornwell is a prolific writer of over 50 novels, including the Sharpe Series (21 episodes with Sean Bean), The Last Kingdom (10 books, Netflix). There is always a skillful blend of history, intrigue and witty dialogue. His writing is superb, well researched and richly detailed. He is an enthusiastic amateur dramatist, which shows in the accurate portrayal of actors’ rivalries, theatre competition, and fierce ambition. This telling brought Shakespeare, his troupe and Elizabethan London to light. I would love a sequel, although this is a stand alone novel.The telling is a credit to the Bard.

Story: Richard Shakespeare, younger brother, is a penniless actor, of pretty face and female roles, who wants to establish himself as a serious professional (e.g. male actor). Playing females doesn’t pay as well (even then, even as a man), but rival egos, a glut of actors and vying theatres prevent upward mobility. Opportunities arise with a new production, a chance romance, and the need to clear his name with stolen manuscripts (midsummer’s night dream and Romeo and Juliet). Sibling rivalry, cutthroat theatre rivalry (pre Globe, 1500 seats, 30plays a year), Puritan hostilities, are intricately woven into a tight fascinating character driven story. Thankfully Queen Elizabeth liked plays, especially Shakespeare’s.

Read on:

If you like Hilary Mantel Wolffe Hall, Robert Nye Mrs Shakespeare

Don’t miss Peter Ackroyd’s Shakespeare histories.

Rochester Public Library has ebook, audiobook and hardcover.


I went out into the yard where rain seethed on the cobbles, and I stood under the shelter of a wooden arcade that ran like a cheap cloister about the courtyards edge. I shivered. Winter was coming.

I was good. I knew I was good. And I wanted to be good because to perform well was one way to avoid Sir Godfrey’s savage beatings, or the whippings administered by his two ushers.

….audiences clamored to hear the play. And across the wintry river men were planning to steal it from us.

We were the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. And no one pissed on our stage.

Aye, but we would be nothing without the words.

One of the best books of 2017, and all time

I read it like it was a library book due yesterday.

A year ago.

It has taken me that long to assimilate and absorb the impact of all the glorious stories. I had greatly anticipated this novel, from my discovery 7 years ago of this 20 year series. A chance view of a cover lured me to Fool’s Assassin, the first of this trilogy. Then I read ALL of her previous novels. I still shudder when I think about what I might have missed. At the end of this novel, I completely reread the entire series, 16 books. For the third time? If there was ever a time to immerse yourself in fantasy this is it and these are tremendous. I have only read Tolkien more. Patrick Rothfuss is perhaps the only other author/series I will continue to reread (and also can’t wait for the next installment). I have to say that slower reading revealed many hidden gems, within the writing and the story.

And wait for it. I was in a library bookstore and NINE (9) of her books came in as paperbacks, in pristine condition. I purchased them all, for copies to share. The Friends of the Rochester Public Library is one of the best bookstores around, I urge you to peruse the shop today! (And every week as the stock is always changing!)

Title: Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb

Publisher: Del Ray May 2017 962 pp

Genre: fantasy, science fiction, coming of age, action and adventure, literature and fiction

5+ stars highly recommended


Robin Hobbs is the second pen name of American author Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogdon (b 1952). She also writes under Megan Lindholm. Her books number over 25 with numerous short stories. If you are still waiting for the next installment of Game ofThrones, pick up Hobbs.

This is another wonderful book in the Realm of the Elderlings, begun in 1995 with the first of the Farseer Trilogy Assassin’s Apprentice, which led directly into the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy. This book in particular combines many of her other series; there are something of the order of 15 books that are referenced here. Don’t miss any of them (Farseer chronicles, Tawny man, Rain wild chronicles, Liveship traders). I’ve told you to start reading this author! I love books that build on previous stories, develop in different directions, shed new light on previous events and reverse roles. These are brilliant, clever, utterly absorbing stories.

Her writing is absolutely brilliant, extraordinary in her detailed storytelling. World building is taken to new heights. Every story is “unputdownable” you cant wait to finish the book, and life is out on hold while you are mesmerized in another magical realm. Her characters resonate in real life. Be warned, while it’s been an amazing journey, the beautiful ending is bittersweet.


To fully appreciate this book you MUST read the previous 8 featuring Fitz and the Fool in the Farseer world. But really there are 16 in the Realm of the Elderlings that altogether complete the intricate, complex story. That includes the Liveship Traders and the Rainwild Chronicles. Why not read them in order?!

Assassin’s Fate seamlessly picks up right after Fools Quest (yes, my last review complained of the abrupt ending). Fitz and the Fool are on their way to Clerres to rescue their daughter Bee, although they believe they are avenging her death. Her struggle is exceedingly painful ala graphic GRRMartin. Narration is shared between Fitz and Bee, with all my favourite characters present including nighteyes, the Fool, Paragon, Icefyre. Fitz is again introspective, but there is such depth to his struggle. It makes the ending even harder. Bee, like the Fool, is very much of the future, and both are game changers. Yes, there are endings, sorrow we neither expect nor want. But they always provide hope on a narrow horizon or in a darkened world. Changes are opportunities, not necessarily easily obtained but always worth striving for. There are many life lessons. I’m hopeful the story/world continues with Bee.

NB there have been some exceptional interviews with Hobbs this last year, which shed light on her writing and these books. Look for them. I’m ever hopeful that movies could be made, now that we have Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.

Read on : this is perfect for summer reads, for any tween, teenager interested in fantasy. Adults will truly enjoy this magic. Typical read time is 19hours!

For fans of Patrick Rothfuss, GRR Martin, Terry Goodkind, Sarah Maas, Robert Jordan


So I fled, knowing I could not escape but too frightened to let them reclaim me.

Death is better than the sort of captivity they plan for you.

It’s only a dream scarcely applies to what a dragon can do to one’s sleeping mind.

Sixty was not thirty, regardless of how I might appear.

Received as an ARC from Netgalley. Purchased my own copy to complete my set.

The Chills Continue

Settle old scores – Or promote healing of old wounds?

Title: Old Scores by Will Thomas

Publisher: Minotaur Press (2017) 294 pp

Genre: mysteries, English mystery, historical mystery, detective fiction

5 stars, highly recommended


Will Thomas (b 1958) writes an award winning Victorian mystery series featuring Cyrus Barker, a Scottish detective or “private enquiry agent,” and his Welsh assistant, Thomas Llewelyn. The Barker/Llewelyn novels are all set in the 1880s with accurate historical events. Martial arts/ combat is featured throughout the series. Thomas has said that Barker is based on characters such as Richard Francis Burton and Edward William Barton-Wright, founder of Bartitsu (which Thomas also studies).

Previously, Thomas wrote essays for Sherlock Holmes society and lectured on crime fiction of the Victorian era. Thomas’ first novel Some Danger Involved was nominated for a Barry Award and a Shamus Award, and won the 2005 Oklahoma Book Award. The Black Hand was nominated for a 2009 Shamus Award. Fatal Enquiry won the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award. He was a librarian with the Tulsa City-County Library System. Thomas enjoys Rex Stout, author of the Nero Wolfe mysteries. His wife, Julia Thomas, recently published her first mystery, The English Boys (2016) followed by Penhale Wood (2017).


This is the 9th in the series and provides many answers and background to the previous 8 stories. Barker has always been quite mysterious as an unusual private investigator, as well as dangerous, and has been the cornerstone of this developing series. Llewelyn, witty narrator, provides the engaging and entertaining commentary on 19the century Victorian London. Thomas is a fantastic suspense writer, with attention to detail of class, traditions, culture, lore as well as weaving an intriguing tale of betrayal, secrets, honor and love. This is fast paced prose with fascinating suspects, red herrings and a satisfying conclusion which also hints at a continuing story thread. I read it straight through in a night, and then just reread it several months later, still enjoying and savoring the details.

Read on to Laurie King’s Mary Russell series (Mrs Sherlock Holmes). If you like Sherlock Holmes, this is not a clone as so many are. I also recommend Anthony Horowitz’s Sherlock series. I was surprised to learn of his wife’s two books and can recommend those English mysteries too!

Received as an ARC from netgalley and the publishers. Purchased my own copy, to continue my set.

Hot reads for cold nights

I never know what I am going to read next. Somehow this week I have had five rather varied nonfiction books catch my eye. A purchased ebook to give me organized quotes from highlighting the environmental message of Peter Wadham’s A Farewell to Ice. Two library books were most enjoyed: a) The New Wine Rules (2017) by Jon Bonne has fun Rules from 1) drink the rainbow to 89) don’t save a great bottle for anything more than a rainy day. Open and enjoy. And b) The Flora of Middle-Earth (2017) by the father son team Walter and Graham Judd. Walter is an eminent professor of Botany at UFlorida and his son Graham is a professional illustrator in St Paul Mn. They spent four years exhaustively researching the plants and created an amazing field guide so you can create your own middle earth. I can’t believe I missed the NPR review of this. Two additional books were sent by friends 1) Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shananhan, MD- so much common sense that really means changing your lifestyle and 2) Forged in Crisis by Nancy Koehn, PhD Historian.

Title: Forged in Crisis by Nancy Koehn

Publisher: Scribner, 2017, 517 pp

Genre: history, leadership, crisis management

4 stars, Recommended as Library reading, I’m glad I didn’t pay money.

Author: From her bio

“Nancy Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robinson chair of Business Administration. She has coached leaders from many organizations and speaks frequently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Aspen Ideas Festival, and the World Business Forum. An accomplished author and scholar (she earned her M.A. and PhD degrees in history from Harvard), she spent ten years writing Forged in Crisis, her first book aimed at a popular audience. Her research focuses on how leaders, past and present, craft lives of purpose, worth and impact. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts and is a committed equestrian.” She has written several books and case studies, previous best: Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers’ Trust from Wedgewood To Dell about six entrepreneurs.


The case studies or essays include Ernest Shackleton, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Rachel Carson. This was an interesting mix and my first question was why these five, what did they have in common? I’ve read multiple great biographies on all but Bonhoeffer. At the same time, the current political climate could benefit from a wider audience reading this book.

I was disappointed in the analysis of leadership, often a page summarizing at the end of each profile (60-80 pages). They more like afterthoughts not original insight. In the conclusion, “The Power of Courageous Leadership” Koehn tells us that the most important thing that connects these leaders is “that these leaders were made, not born.” Years ago, I read John F. Kennedy’s succinct, inspirational book, “Profiles in Courage.” I can’t believe it’s too dated to read. Especially in light of the comment/conclusion “All five leaders were willing to work on themselves.” I think college lecture or motivational speaker. “The second thing that each of the five leaders learned as they navigated through great turbulence was the significance of committing to a worthy goal.” This applies to every generation, but we need tools to make the generations work together. These five also learned was the value of resilience. We definitely need more of that.


From the introduction, leaders are “effective, decent…people of purpose and commitment who want to make a positive difference and who choose to rise: first within themselves, by claiming their better selves, and then on the large stage, by staking out the higher ground.”

Travel Books

img_3979February is book lovers month

Travel always brings extra reading with plane time, airport delays, bookshop perusal and friends recommendations.

As quick ebook reads I started the Iris and Roy Johansen’s Kendra Michaels series. Kendra had her sight restored through stem cell technology as a young woman and now uses all her senses to help the FBI solve difficult murder cases. Today I discovered there is a new one in the series! The suspense kept me occupied for a day of flight delays. I love the ease of downloading Library ebooks. At any one time I have 5-7books waiting to be read, as well as a long hold list or current and popular titles.

An absolutely fantastic charming read was recommended by an RPL librarian. The Unexpected Inheritance Of Inspector Chopra, written by Vaseem Khan is the Alexander McCall Smith of India. It is also the first of three novels published (so far) and I have to find the other two. You are in for the funny, poignant, insightful tale of Chopra retiring from the police force but determined to solve one last case. I can’t wait to find out what happens with the baby elephant, a most unusual retirement gift.

Three Queens in Erin by Douglas Nicholas. RPL has this fantasy series, where few do; it it is one of the best! Read on if you like Patrick Rothfuss, Dave Duncan or GRRMartin. I was delighted to find the latest and last installment by this award winning poet. Magic exists but all the stories are based on actual British history. There are several plot lines that develop through the series, coming of age of Hob (to Robert the Englishman), good vs evil with magical shape shifting or witchcraft, clan allegiance and reestablishing matriarch lineage in medieval times. They must be read in order for full appreciation of the trials of Queen Maeve and the historical perspective. I loved every novel and the satisfactory sense of completion at the end of Three Queens.

Flavia is back!! I love all the Flavia deLuce books in Alan Bradley’s charming YA series. The Grave is a Fine and Private Place is the 10th installment in the award winning author’s preteen English sleuth. She has had so many maturing changes, but is back in Buckshaw in familiar territory: there’s another body, her trusted friends surround her and the celebrated wit and observations are to the fore. It’s not the best book in the series, I’d read them in order to appreciate this more. But it is a delightful read nonetheless.

Book Group in a Bag

Our book group met today, using Zoom, as we couldn’t get out of our icy driveways. We all wanted to discuss this month’s amazing selection Homegoing and didn’t want to delay meeting. A friend has been to the slave castle (Cape Coast) in Ghana recently and provided a few photographs (thanks to Joe Lobl for including them). This book is available as a book group In a bag from RPL, but there is a reserve line. Ditto hardcopy and ebook. Sign up now!

Title: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Publisher: Knopf 2016 vintage reprint May 2017 320 pp

Highly recommended, rounded up to five stars


Gyasi is 26 year old and was born in Ghana. Her family moved to the USA when she was two when her father was completing his PhD at Ohio State. As an immigrant child “books were her closest friends”. She studied English literature, BA Stanford, MFA University Of Iowa. Homecoming was inspired by her first (2009) trip to Ghana and is her debut novel. The title is from an African belief that death allowed an enslaved persons spirit to travel back home to Africa.

National Book Critic Circle award for best first book

Winner of the PEN/ Hemingway Award

Winner of the NBCC’s John Leonard Award

A New York Times Notable Book

A Washington Post Notable Book

2017 Granta Best Of Young American Novelists

One of the Best Books of the Year: NPR, Time, Oprah.com, Harper’s Bazaar, San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, Esquire, Elle, Paste, Entertainment Weekly, the Skimm, PopSugar, Minneapolis Star Tribune, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, Financial Times


(Excerpt from book plate) “Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.

Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.”

Bookgroup comments:

1)The genealogy page is very important to keep the characters straight, but it was also noted that these stories were interchangeable with many African American families.

2)This is not the usual book you read from the Iowa Writing School. Loved the originality of it.

3)It was a dark book, not necessarily one I would have chosen to read. But we learned so many different things from it. Importantly the author wanted you to understand racial tension in America by the time you got to the end.

4)I became invested in the characters and wished to know so much more about them, instead of the short chapters they were restricted to.

5)Surprise at some of the literary criticism (our balanced book reporting), as we thought the writing was exceptional. She is working on her next book too.